A field tour and celebration BBQ highlighted the effort to mark the 10th anniversary of the River Plains Growing Project on July 19.
Located 16 miles northeast of Outlook, the River Plains Growing Project has been harvesting a crop each year since 2009, thanks to the work of many volunteers who are committed to helping feed the hungry. With a rotation of wheat, canola and barley the harvest has averaged over $32,000 per year which is then given to Canadian Lutheran World Relief, a partner agency of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
Regional Representatives Rick and Jacqui Block were on hand for the anniversary celebration and Rick explained that a major effort of the Foodgrains Bank is to provide emergency food assistance around the world. “These growing projects are a combination of many people and entities, churches and businesses who are helping address food insecurity issues, particularly in places of conflict where hunger has risen.” He gave the example of countries like South Sudan that need to import 95% of their food. “Conflict prevents people from having the confidence to plant seed and think that in three or four months they are going to be able to harvest it.”
Currently, with the support of the Canadian Government, the Foodgrains Bank is able to leverage donations on a 4:1 basis, meaning donations multiply quickly. “Every project makes a very significant contribution to our work which provides both immediate food assistance and also helps address the longer term need.” Part of addressing the larger issue involves providing information to help people make important transitions in farming practices. Some of the farmers they work with have only 2-3 acres of land so learning how to grow more and better food is critical. “We are seeing a significant impact and wide-reaching results in this area,” Block indicated. He shared the story of meeting a woman in Rwanda when he and Glen Erlandson were there as part of a learning delegation. “She lavished us with corn. She was a grandmother feeding 7 other mouths in her household on a limited land base, and yet she was confident enough in what she was doing that she had enough to feed all of us. She had confidence in what she had learned.”
This year the River Plains Project is growing marrowfat peas. Garth Weiterman provided a tour of the field where the peas are growing at a good rate of 8-9 plants per square foot. Grown in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, marrowfat peas are used primarily in mushy peas and snack foods and Garth pointed out the benefits of using them since they, like other pulse crops, are high in fibre and low in fat. He encouraged people to do more cooking with pulses. “It’s very healthy,” he said. “They are amongst the best things we should be eating.”
Rick Block indicated that pulse crops are a staple of the emergency supplies given out around the world. “They’re the centrepiece of food assistance,” he indicated. In looking out over the local project he remarked, “The Foodgrains Bank works with small holder farms worldwide and the average farmer farms about two acres of land. Here we’re looking at 160 acres so this parcel of land would support 80 families.”